The Ultimate Guide to Gifting Whiskey
Old faithful, the classic fallback, booze. It’s the ultimate last minute gift, something you can always rely on and something that there’s never enough of (as long as you ask us!) But what if you don’t want that gift to just be satisfactory, or a fallback? What’s the best way to gift liquor?
For business gifts or some of the biggest occasions, liquor and alcohol gifting is actually much easier than you think. Here’s our foolproof guide to gifting bourbon, rye and scotch, and a few pointers on how you can ensure your gift never falls flat or underwhelms.
Know the recipient
What’s worse than gifting someone a cheap bottle of wine for a special occasion? Gifting that cheap bottle of wine to someone who doesn’t drink. The best tip for someone looking to give alcohol as a gift is to know who you’re giving it to! If someone doesn’t drink, then it’s pretty simple - don’t give them booze. This advice has additional pointers, however, if you know someone has a penchant for whiskey or Scotch, or perhaps if they have a preference for old-vintage Bordeaux wine, then cater to those specific varietals and categories - in other words, stick to what someone likes (and what you know), don’t risk being too adventurous but rather, select something that you’re confident in and one that fits the recipient.
Do your research
Once you’ve decided that liquor is the right choice for the recipient, and you’ve narrowed down a particular category or varietal, start doing your research. The best way to find out what’s great, good or not the best, is by jumping online and doing some digging. The world of whiskey, wine and liquor is immersive and endless, so embracing this is the easiest way to learn what someone might like, and what might make a suitable gift. If you aren’t familiar with American whiskey for example, A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide can come in handy, especially leading up to the festive season.
Set a budget
And stick to it... It’s really that simple, there’s no use in putting all of your effort into researching and learning about whiskey, finding and sourcing the perfect bottle, to then find that it’s 200 times more than what you’re willing to spend. The whiskey, wine and rare liquor market can be a volatile space, so having a budget in mind and working around this is key to finding a successful and suitable gift.
Know the occasion
Maternity party? Don’t gift liquor. 50th Birthday? Definitely whiskey. Knowing the occasion is crucial to finding the right gift for your recipient. Make sure that the gift fits the bill, if it’s a bigger occasion, then a more exclusive, rare bottle might be suitable. Something more minor? Then a daily sipper probably sounds right. The best way to rise to the occasion when gifting liquor is to understand that occasion. Our list of Anniversary Gift appropriate bottles is an ideal resource for bigger events and milestones.
Don’t cut corners
If you know someone’s a single-malt Scotch drinker and a passionate collector of single malt Scotch, then buying them a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label isn’t going to go down well. More than likely, this bottle will go down the sink rather well, never to be tasted or enjoyed. Such is the nature of whiskey collecting, that once you have found your niche and understand how good ‘good whiskey’ can be, going back to entry level products or those types that aren’t to your taste isn’t an option. That’s where this recommendation comes into play, never cut corners or take the cheap alternative - as this almost always ends up in an underwhelming gift and a black mark next to your name. Don’t be surprised if you receive a regifted pair of oven mitts for your next birthday…
So, now that we’ve covered the basics of what not to do, let’s take a look at a handpicked selection of some of the best bourbon, rye and scotch whiskeys that you can gift this festive season:
A wheated wonder of a whiskey. A widely acclaimed bourbon from the all "wheated" W.L. Weller line, the Antique 107 shares the same mashbill, warehouse, and proof as the stunning Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year. This is a non-age-statement iteration of Old Weller's Antique 107, replacing the now-discontinued with-age varieties, however, it is estimated to be around the 7-year-old mark, with a mature and refined flavor profile. Known worldwide as one of the best value bourbons on the planet, the Weller Antique 107 punches well above its weight with its robust strength and deep complexity second to none.
One of Kentucky's finest Bottled in Bond Single Barrels. Celebrating a history of tradition and the unique methods and recipes of the founding father of bourbon, Colonel E.H. Taylor's Single Barrel Bourbon is a testament to the acclaimed distiller's dedication to craftsmanship. Fantastically smooth and defined by the smokey undertones for which the brand has become renowned, the Single Barrel is a remarkable sipping bourbon that builds steadily on the palate and lingers in the mind. Spicy, sweet, and with buttery smoothness, Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon is a combination of the best a premium whiskey can offer at a more than accessible price.
A scintillating small-batch bourbon. The export release of the 2021-01 cask strength "Donohoe's Batch", aged for 6 years 11 months and 4 days and bottled at 125.3 proof, the 2021-01E batch is just as impressive, with a profile that spans between soft vanilla and warm baking spice before being tied together by a warm, full-bodied finish.
An esteemed award winner. Voted 2021's best single barrel bourbon at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards, Henry McKenna's 10 year old bottled-in-bond single barrel is one of the finest Kentucky whiskeys available today, having been awarded this prestigious honor 3 times in the last 4 years (2021, 2019 and 2018). Combining a bouquet of complex flavors, spanning from new car leather, breakfast cereal, and a subtle pepper on the nose, to semisweet caramel corn, toasted marshmallow, and dried fruit notes on the palate, don't miss this opportunity to secure a multi-award-winning whiskey.
High proof power. An award-winning full-proof bourbon, bottled at barrel entry proof, 1792's Full Proof is an exceptional piece of whiskey engineering that has brought countless accolades and critical acclaim. Recipient of 'World's Best Whiskey' by the World Whiskies Awards in 2018, the Full Proof is a stunning and inspired bourbon, aged for 8.5 years before undergoing a special filtration process that circumvents traditional chill-filtration. The result is simply breathtaking; expect bold oak and maple flavors, nuanced hints of toffee and cinnamon and an awe-inspiring heat that will certainly put hairs on your chest.
Rambunctious, refined rye. Now consolidated as a limited production rye, Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye Whiskey is highly collectible and widely sought-after. The subtle, complex blend, made with a mashbill of rye and malted barley, is bottled-in-bond and designed to ensure the sweetness of corn doesn't overwhelm the rye's distinctive character - resulting in a complex and beautiful bouquet.
A masterfully crafted rye. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Cornerstone is the fourth release in the Master’s Keep series, after the 17 Year Old, Decades, and Revival. Cornerstone is noteworthy as the first rye whiskey that Wild Turkey has released in this series, and is also the company’s longest aged and highest proof rye ever released. The bottle carries a 9 year age statement, however it includes whiskey up to 11 years old, and yielded just 16,000 bottles for the U.S. market.
The Angel's Share. After testing over 100 rums to find the perfect cask to finish this entirely unique blend, Angel's Envy Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson has created a true masterpiece with his Rum Barrel Finished Rye Whiskey. Entering the arena of rye whiskey for the first time, Angel's Envy has delighted their dedicated following yet again with this smooth, loud and spicy rye. Spending a full 20 months finishing in Caribbean rum casks, this blend emerges as a fiery 100 proof with creamy peat notes, complemented by the subtle sweetness of dark rum. If you love rye whiskey, or even if you simply love Angel's Envy, this is a blend you must try.
An Australian Revelation. One of the only rye whiskeys produced in Australia inspired by traditional American ryes and styled in this fashion, Belgrove Distillery's Rye Whiskey is a unique and interesting 100% rye, developed with sustainability in mind. Bottled at 90 proof and described by such enigmatic figures as Jim Murray as "Liquid Gold", Belgrove Rye is not to be missed.
A well aged whisper. WhistlePig 15 Year Straight Rye Whiskey is hand bottled at 92 proof on the WhistlePig Farm with their calling-card, Canadian mash bill of 100% rye. To the eye this 15 year old whiskey has the rich golden brown color of butterscotch candy. It is mellow to the nose, with an initial burnt fruity citrus wafting out followed by the distinct spiciness of rye. One experiences a complex mingling of flavors when tasting WhistlePig 15 Year. The butterscotch appearance is reflected in the creamy sweetness that hits the front of the tongue. Then the peppery spice comes along and forcefully hits mid-palate with a pleasant heat. An oaky earthiness lingers in the long, deep finish that is not at all dry. There is nothing subtle about this whiskey as it delivers bold flavor without the burn.
A colorful collectible. The final release in the Macallan Editions Collection, Edition No. 6 draws inspiration from the stunning natural landscapes around the Macallan Estate. A highly collectible limited edition bottle, Edition No. 6 uses 5 distinct American and European casks, handpicked by Macallan Whisky Maker Steven Bremner and designed as a celebration of the river Spey and nature around the Macallan property. Expect rich fresh fruits, nutmeg, ginger, toffee and vanilla, which give way to hints of cinnamon, oak, toffee and citrus, before a long, spicy and sweet finish - bottled at 97.2 proof.
A refined revival. From its historical home in the Highlands of Scotland, The GlenDronach Distillery has been creating the finest sherried single malts for nearly two centuries. Founded in 1826 by James Allardice, the distillery was purchased in 1960 by William Teacher & Sons and then, in 2008 experienced a complete renaissance under The BenRiach Distillery Company. Named Global Whisky Distiller of the Year at the 2015 Icons of Whisky Awards, this small, privately owned distillery keeps going from strength to strength. Awarded a Silver Medal at the 2009 Malt Maniacs Awards, the GlenDronach Revival 15 Year Old Single Malt is a thick, sherried delight with hints of chocolate, coffee before a dry finish.
Sophisticated smoke. The Lagavulin 16 Year Old Single Malt dates back to 1816, when John Johnston and Archibald Campbell each constructed a distillery on what today lies the Lagavulin site. This signature 16 year old malt has a strong peat, smoke and seaweed nose, followed by a complex mix of light fruitiness, charcoal, wood and iodine, toffee and chilli. With a richness and dryness typical of an Islay malt, this spirit has become, over its lifetime a true benchmark of Islay whisky.
An unimitable icon. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is the epitome of blending. Designed to reflect the style of whiskies in the early 19th century, Blue Label is created using some of Johnnie Walker's rarest casks. A blend of both grain and malt whiskeys from different distilleries, Blue Label has legions of avid supporters and detractors alike.
A considered concept. Limited edition Macallan Concept Number 2 Single Malt Scotch of 2019 was inspired by world visionaries and creatives. Casks of sherry soaked American oak and ex-bourbon casks where used to develop a rich and harmonious vibe. Crafter Steven Bremner looked to craft this wonderful melting pot of flavors to form a pure symphony of whiskey delight. The taste is one of sweet and dry fruits molded expertly in swathes of toffee candy and cinnamon. Add in the earthy tones of oak wood and warm spice, and the Macallan Concept No. 2 is clearly a taste to remember, again and again. You will reminisce in the notes of honey cereal and homemade coffee cake as your tongue travels the honeycomb laden paths with this indulgent single malt scotch. The Macallan Concept No. 2 Single Malt Scotch Whiskey carries you away with every drop of sweetness, leaving you with a perfectly paired final sip of citrus and berry slathered shortbread.
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